'Just waiting to come back': Owner of Oakland's historic Grand Lake Theatre prepares for the future of movie theaters

ByChris Bollini via KGO logo
Friday, June 19, 2020
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"It's ghostly to see the place abandoned like this." The owner of the Grand Lake Theatre is looking forward to the day he can open his doors again. But with COVID-19, when that will be remains uncertain.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's been more than three months since anyone has enjoyed the inviting aroma of hot buttered popcorn or nestled themselves into a cozy recliner to enjoy a movie. It's an experience that Allen Michaan, the owner of Oakland's Grand Lake Theatre, knows very well.

"I love going to the movies", Michaan said. "It's a very special communal experience. There's nothing like seeing a great movie with an audience".

But with the onset of COVID-19, movie theaters had to shut their doors and turn off the marquee lights.

"It's strange. It's ghostly to see the place abandoned like this. Just empty, empty and waiting, just waiting to come back," Michaan said.

With Regal Cinema's announcement about reopening its movie houses in July, the promise of movie magic is in the air, but according to Michaan, there's quite a lot of uncertainty as well.

"The studios might decide to push back the big releases. Obviously, with no film to play, it doesn't make sense to open anyway," Michaan said.

RELATED: Oakland's Grand Lake Theatre is a relic of eras past

But the fate of movie theaters also centers around a new list of operating guidelines in a COVID-19 environment like limiting the number of guests, removing seats to ensure proper distancing, or even using temperature checks.

"If we are restricted to 25 percent capacity and have to do things like sanitize seats between shows or put disposable seat covers on between shows, it could be way tough," Michaan said. "If the guidelines and rules and regulations don't really allow us to operate in a way where we can break even, we may be better off waiting. I don't really know."

Taking a wait and see approach, Michaan is unsure about when he'll open his doors.

"The question is...is it this summer? Or is it going to be Christmas? Or is it next summer. I don't know," he said.

But there is one thing that Michaan is certain about.

"We'll bring this all back and we'll bring it back as soon as we can and as soon as we safely can. And we look forward to that day."

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